Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 24

Throughout Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov’s stay in Germany, and during his brief visit yesterday to Bulgaria, he took every opportunity to reiterate Moscow’s opposition to any NATO military intervention in Yugoslavia. Ivanov restated Moscow’s contention that air strikes threatened by NATO against Belgrade would only further destabilize the situation in the Balkans. He also demanded that the Contact Group–Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy–convene for further consultations before NATO takes any action in Yugoslavia (Russian agencies, February 1-3).

Ivanov’s remarks followed a strongly worded Contact Group statement on January 29 which ordered Yugoslav authorities and Kosovo Albanian leaders to begin peace talks immediately. Russia joined in approving the ultimatum in large part because it did not explicitly mention any military reprisals which might ensue should the peace initiative fail. Moscow was also satisfied to see the Contact Group statement delivered to both sides–a move which dovetails with Russia’s contention that Western policy has heretofore been biased against the Serbs (see the Monitor, February 1).

Most Western officials saw the Contact Group ultimatum as related to a January 28 NATO threat of a military move against Belgrade if Yugoslav and Serb authorities fail to meet their international commitments. Russia’s continuing criticism of proposed strikes, and its demand for more international consultation before any such NATO action is taken, however, reflect its denial of any link between the Contact Group statement and the NATO threat.

Ivanov and other Russian officials have also strongly opposed preliminary proposals under which NATO forces might be deployed to Yugoslavia if Yugoslav authorities and Kosovo Albanian leaders are able to agree on a peace settlement. The NATO plan calls for up to 30,000 NATO peacekeeping troops–including, possibly, at least several thousand Americans–to be introduced into Yugoslavia to enforce a peace settlement. Russian diplomatic sources were quoted on February 1, however, as saying that Moscow “sees no sense in practical discussion” of the deployment of a Bosnia-style international peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The same officials also reportedly said that any such deployment must first be approved by Yugoslav authorities–a condition that is highly unlikely to be met (Russian agencies, February 1).

Meanwhile, on February 3, the Russian State Duma approved a resolution urging President Boris Yeltsin to unilaterally withdraw Russia from observing international sanctions on Yugoslavia. The nonbinding statement cites NATO’s threat of military strikes on Yugoslavia as a justification (Itar-Tass, February 3).